Discover the features and management of Christchurch Harbour, a valued environmental and recreational asset in the borough of Christchurch.
Christchurch Harbour was formed 7,000 years ago when the sea level rose at the end of the Ice Age. Find out more about the history of Christchurch Harbour (pdf, 18kb) (opens in a new window).
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For information on the management of Christchurch Harbour please see the management plan (pdf, 3Mb) (opens in a new window).
Harbour approach and entry
The entrance channel is shallow and constantly changes making it difficult to define, especially in winter. Boats with a draught larger than 3'6" will have difficulty and local knowledge will be useful. The channel is marked by red and green buoys, positioned by local fisherman when necessary. Their accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
Downstream of Mudeford Quay there are two vertical green lights marking the shoreward end of the channel joining 'The Run'. No bearings can be given because of the changing channel. 'The Run' is deeper and becomes congested in summer. Between high and low tide the water flow can be up to eight knots, or slightly less on a flood.
Inside the harbour the narrow main channel, marked by buoys, is shallower than the entrance channel. Any deviations could result in running aground. The most favourable, deep water anchorages are to the north of Branders Bank or at Steepbanks.
Sailing and Boardsailing
A public right of navigation on tidal waters in the Harbour gives you the right to enjoy your sport responsibly. Other groups also expect to enjoy the harbour. You are therefore requested:
- not to sail unnecessarily in the main navigable channel (International Collision Regulations). Large boats cannot easily manoeuvre in confined waters
- not to disrupt public ferry service passages or sail amongst moored boats. You are liable to injure yourself or damage property. There are large open areas to enjoy your sport in the middle of the harbour
- not to go barefoot. Christchurch Harbour is not purpose built and has natural and unnatural debris on the bottom
- abide by the speed limit of 4 nautical miles per hour as outlined in Byelaw 43. (A speed limit of 8 nautical miles per hour applies along the seashore as outlined in Byelaw 32.)
To help you plan your activities visit iCoast (opens in a new window) for guidance and information.
The Christchurch Harbour enigma
The cliff sections fronting Poole Bay and Christchurch Bay are well documented. What is not so well understood is how they are linked across Christchurch Harbour. This information may help improve understanding, using some well established information and some fresh information,until now unpublished, arising from an engineering project undertaken by Christchurch Borough Council (CBC) at Christchurch Harbour entrance in 1999.